We FINALLY had the pig "processed". Josh came with a trailer to load him one freezing morning. We lost track of how long we had him. Savanah got him to show in a fair, but he developed a limp early on which made him unacceptable as a show prospect so that's how we got him. We think we had him about 7 or so months. He got a large amount of cracked corn each day but he preferred table scraps. His favorite food of all was home-grown ripe cantaloupe.
Josh estimated his weight to be around 350. His hanging weight was 250 pounds. I could write an entire post about raising animals for slaughter, processing, humane treatment, etc., but I'll save that for another time.
We're not sure exactly how much meat we ended up with, but it was a lot! We didn't have room in the chest freezer for all of it - some had to go in the fridge freezer and some (the head and the fat) in the fridge in the shed. We gave the head to some people who make tamales. We're going to render the lard (more on that exciting project in another post....)
Since we weren't sure how much sausage we wanted to have, we just had the trimmings ground and put all the roasts in the freezer. In the future we can always grind up some roasts if necessary to make more sausage. We had 25 pounds of trimmings, which is a good bit to work with when you're making the sausage yourself. It was really nice having the meat ground by the butcher. What a timesaver! All we had to do was season, stuff if desired, and smoke (which comes a little later).
I researched home sausage making on the internet and found recipes using 45 and 90 pounds of meat!! I finally found recipes that used 5 or 10 pounds, which is just about right for us. The recipes can be found at www.dakotahsausagestuffer.com/makesausage.htm
The first batch of sausage we made was breakfast sausage. This was very easy. It's basically ground pork, salt and spices. A note on the spice jars shown in the picture - I wanted a spice rack and looked all over the internet but couldn't find one I liked for less than $50. I happened upon one at a yard sale for $2. It included a wooden rack and about 20 or so jars. I cleaned it up, wiped a little stain on the rack to shine it up, and made labels on my ink jet printer. What a good deal!
Ok, so back to the sausage. We made some links and some bulk. The links are somewhat difficult and practice makes perfect. After making all the links I realized you can make one long tube THEN twist the individual links. You want to try to get the links all a uniform size and it's pretty tricky trying to make sure the meat is pushed down into the grinder, you support the casings as the meat is filling it and so on. Of course just about the time you start to get the hang of it you're done. Marc had to handle feeding the grinder while I was in charge of the casings. After a while we got tired of doing that so we finished with bulk sausage. I got supplies from Eldon's Jerky and Sausage Supply. I bought casings and poly storage bags which I used for the breakfast sausage. We packaged the sausage in Foodsaver bags and vacuum sealed them.
For the breakfast sauage, I carefully measured the salt and spices according to the recipe and made a small tester patty, which tasted really good. However, the finished sausage tastes a little salty. Again in hindsight I realize I didn't follow the directions exactly - you're supposed to mix all the salt and spices in the water before you add to the meat. I initially sprinkled the first tablespoon of salt over the meat before I remembered! For 10 pounds of ground trimmings, I added 2 Tbsp. table salt, 1-1/2 Tbsp. sage, 1-1/2 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 3/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and 1/2 cup water. Caroline and Stephanie said it needed more sage.
Since the meat was already ground all I had to do was stuff the casings using the food grinder attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer. I use it quite often to grind roasts I find on sale into hamburger. I bought the sausage stuffer attachment set (the tube thing that comes out the front) on Ebay for about $8 including postage. The grey plastic bin in the photo is a food grade storage tote that I got from the restaurant supply store. It really came in handy for mixing the 10 pounds of pork that we used for the breakfast sausage recipe.
After making the breakfast sausage we made a batch of Beer Brats. I substituted beer for the water in the Bratwurst recipe. Don't they look good?! Marc likes to grill brats but I've never really liked them. I'm hoping that homemade sausages will taste better than store-bought.
Next, we made bulk Italian Sausage. I used our home raised dried cayenne peppers in this to add a little kick. We packaged this in 1 pound packages. I plan to use this for lasagna, spaghetti, pizza, etc. The ground pork is fairly lean - it has less fat than ground chuck.
Next weekend we plan to make Polska Kilebasa, which will be smoked.
We have 12 pounds of bacon curing right now. This weekend when it's done we'll smoke it and I'll post some pics of that process!